Residents raise thousands in bid to legally challenge Canada Water Masterplan

Josh Salisbury (20 November, 2019) Housing Environment Transport

The group hopes to get the Mayor to overturn the scheme - and if not, pledge a legal challenge

33381The group says its concerned about density, housing and transport

Thousands of pounds has been raised for a legal bid to challenge the Canada Water Masterplan.

The 53-acre development, the largest in the borough’s history, was unanimously approved by councillors at the end of September.

The £3.3bn scheme will see the overhaul of vast swathes of Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays over the next fifteen years, bringing up to 3,000 new homes to the area and 20,000 new jobs.

But now a group of local stakeholder groups have launched a drive to legally challenge the approved application, over fears of ‘segregation’ of social housing and overwhelmed transport routes.

“We want a new shopping and town centre along with housing provision that serves the community, not a high-rise “destination” to compete with Canary Wharf,” state the group, made up of seven stakeholder groups including residents’ groups as well as parents and school governors.

“We challenge “cut and paste” development which gives no thought to the local community and its environs.”

Image from British Land of how the new Dock Office Courtyard could look like

The group added: “We are also troubled by the propriety of Southwark giving planning permission when it is in a 20/80 partnership with the developer.”

British Land, the developer behind the Canada Water Masterplan, refused to comment.

The group hopes to raise £10,000 to make representations to the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for the scheme to be given reconsideration. If unsuccessful, they plan to challenge the development in the courts.

Among their major concerns are that the scheme’s social housing is in a plot which they allege is segregated away from the private dwellings of the development, in breach of planning policy.

They also allege that the development will put an “impossible strain” on local transport routes.

British Land has pledged £33m to improve transport in the area as part of the development, but concerns have remained that already congested routes will only worsen.

Deep concerns have been raised about overwhelmed local transport in the SE16 area

Southwark Council’s Cllr Johnson Situ said the scheme was “an exciting blue print,” which would provide much-needed social homes in “some of the best locations” of the development.

“We recognise some local people’s concerns around transport and the location of some of the new homes,” he said.

“There was a full discussion at planning committee with views expressed on both sides but ultimately the decision was unanimously approved and we are continuing to work with all parties to improve on transport options in the area.”

Over £3,500 has been raised by the group so far, of an initial target of £10,000. “We are extremely heartened by the public response,” the group told the News.

David Foot says:

I have found irregularities and problems of integrity with the Leisure Centre allocation, I have put my comments on the Web on a Facebook page:
Facebook: @Canadawater000
Canada Water – Rotherhithe London over-Development
I am going through the process of complaint because I want to take these problems of different types but some directly compromise the integrity of information givent to the public.
These are my problems with this procedure:
I have spoken to the Ombudsman about bringing a case against the recent new leisure centre choice of Southwark Council against the wishes of the residents and even though I have opposed the application since it was made public to me in 2016, the Ombudsman has told me that I must start and complete a complaints procedure before the Council first. Please provide me with your complaint procedures in this respect in order to know when I can contact the Ombudsman:
This is my complaint against the process of selection of a new Leisure Centre approved by Southwark Council on September 30 2019 but not yet put to the Mayor of London according to Order 2008.
* Councillors not properly briefed as to the proposed Leisure Centre:
During the Council hearing on September 30 2019 one of the Councillors asked British Land PLC representative to comment on my remark that the 33 meter pool at Seven Islands could host at least 4 Olympic tests and the proposed pool could host none, making it not a replacement for the 33 meter pool. The British Land PLC representative reminded her that the Council had defined these parameters, this confirmed to me that some of the Councillors had not been properly briefed as to the Leisure Centre.
* Failure to respect the wishes of the donor of most of the land on which Seven Islands stands today:
Most of the land of Seven Islands was donated by a private donor from the Car-Gomm Family to be public baths. The Council should do its utmost to comply with these wishes.
* Initial Call to consultation to move away from Seven Islands in 2016 and to Issue British Land PLC with a contract:
I would also like to point out that right from the start I complained from the time of receiving the letters in February 2016, those letters were avoiding to supply crucial information like the length and depth of the proposed new pool which affects profoundly its capabilities. A measure of the present pool’s capabilities is that it can execute at least 4 Olympic tests (because of its depth). The proposed pool and can be used to execute no Olympic tests at all. This information of the length and depth I was only able to obtain and confirm at the end of the process in 2018! My complaints were ignored in 2016. At the time residents only knew of a promise of a 50 meter pool and the 33 meter pool which they were using, they had no idea of a now proposed short course of only 25 m and only 1.8 m deep!
* Conditions in Seven Islands were made to be favourable to granting a contract to British Land PLC. coincidence:
An unexplained coincidence took place during vital time for considering the Leisure Centre upgrade and replacement, for years during this process Seven Island Swimming Pool was kept working in a provisional way, with windows open in all seasons, exposing young children to cold currents of air during their lessons in winter, with air conditioning working against heating, with cold water on many occasions because the heating of the water couldn’t keep up with this situation. The heating system was operating as it was not designed to operate, brutally reducing usage until the last days of August first days of September 2019. At this time the usage change would no longer affect the outcome of such a choice for the Council, the final decision was to be taken on September 30 2019.
This procedure strongly favouring giving a contract to British Land PLC put at risk the health of children, old people, and the general public. Now Seven Islands is back operating as it should and was intended and designed to operate and it is fantastic, operating as it used to operate in decades past. I can leave home and expect to go to a good leisure centre where I will be able to swim. There are countless complaints registered to this effect during the past years. I personally can remember at least two meetings with managers over the years.
* Dismissal of first valid resident participation of 2006 claiming it can’t be funded:
To dismiss 2006 promise / resident participation for to supply an aquatic centre with a 50 meter pool to allow diving with a depth of 5 meters (or even a separate diving pool) To dismiss this promise and resident participation of the original Masterplan for lack of resources is inconsistent with being able to refurbish Seven Islands with approximately £8,000,000 and really “wanting” to spend with British Land PLC more than four times that amount on a Leisure Centre which the Council explicitly told us it was not prepared to have in that location because of all the difficulties which translate in to extra cost because of the site problems, when on the other hand we have an excellent donated site at Seven Islands.
Today Southwark council could spend £160,000 on a moveable bulkhead at Seven Islands plus £8,000,000 refurbishing Seven Islands as requested by the residents.
Southwark Council refuses to do this, it “wants” desperately to spend at all costs, up to £35,000,000 on an inferior pool and a badly placed Leisure Centre, through a contract with British Land PLC which the residents don’t like and don’t want (Resident participation of 2016 all sites considered, File Freedom of information). If Southwark has so much money why not comply with the initial promise of the aquatic centre? If Southwark Council hasn’t got the money then let us keep the best pool and spend the available money on Seven Islands (a site which complies with ALL of the council’s requisites for a good leisure centre site!), as the residents want, improving and extending its facilities. This is what the residents have asked for in petitions, newspaper articles etc.
Southwark Council is prepared to spend up to four times what it needs to in order to provide us with a leisure centre but in a manner against the expressed wishes of the residents, a pool not as good as the one which we already have, not a direct replacement by a long shot. The Council has cancelled two valid resident participations with no consultation and done whatever was necessary to put itself in to the situation of “giving” British Land PLC an unwanted and unnecessary contract of up to £35,000,000.
* Dismissal of second resident participation: Failure to respect wishes of residents: When all sites were presented to the residents, they chose Seven Islands.(2016 Freedom of information file).
To dismiss the resident participation of 2016 the Council used a false premise: The Council said that the only option for Seven Islands was reconstruction and this is not the case: To provide a 25 meter short course there is the possibility of keeping Seven Islands, the 33 meter pool with all its advantages, beauty and capabilities and using a “rigid movable bulkhead” at the 33 meter pool 3.8 meters deep.
All this can be done with a negligible disruption to service and huge savings according to international swimming regulations by using a moveable bulkhead which costs only £160,000 pounds a new pool costs in excess of a million pounds even the paltry 25 meters long and only 1.8 meter deep ones. This cheaper solution would respect the wishes of the donor of the land and the residents of Rotherhithe today as reflected in the freedom of information request file and keep the best multi-sports swimming pool in Southwark.
* The venue of Plot 2 is comprehensively deprecated by the Council itself in the Consultation File:
The Council said clearly to the public that it would not allow a Leisure Centre on Plot 2, sharing use with others because of the different life duration and needs of leisure centres, the problems of putting a swimming pool on top of a railway tunnel etc. Not being able to make any further construction changes, maintenance problems among others. This would all mean much more expense in construction and going deliberately against the original council good planning criteria (which is fully met by the Seven Islands site) and against the choice of the residents only to give an even more expensive contract to British Land PLC which leaves us the public having to pay for this additional cost and for the concrete demolition of our much loved and chosen Seven Islands on donated land for its purpose!
This obstinacy of going for such an expensive contract on such a bad site has no conventional explanation in construction or in democratic consultation of the residents. Is the Council operating within a framework of integrity rejecting the better site of Seven Islands? This point raises an unavoidable contradiction which requires a very good answer.
* I have never been happy with the process, with a question to the Council which I raised and wasn’t answered in a satisfactory way regarding the total lack of consultation on all these moves cancelling valid resident participation and restricting the final third resident participation as they did at the end to only three sites of those consulted in 2016 all of which required a contract with British Land PLC.
* To conclude, the outcome which I want and for which I am complaining:
Southwark Council to comply with the resident participation of 2016 when given all the choices the residents rejected any new centre and chose Seven Islands because it is the best Leisure Centre possible if the aquatic centre is not possible, the best multi-sports swimming pool is already with us in Seven Islands. Refurbish Seven Islands, improve the pool with a rigid movable bulkhead to satisfy all the needs of the schools giving a short course competition venue when needed with even a viewing gallery for the competitions (only one in the borough) and when deep water is needed use the 33 meter pool for those specific needs (because it is the only one in the borough).

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